Republican candidates react to winning ward-only vote counts

Republican candidates react to winning ward-only vote counts

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - If the City of Tucson had followed a different election system, the city would have had a completely different outcome in the last election.

The numbers show that while incumbents Shirley Scott and Paul Cunningham won the citywide election to hold on to their seats, they actually lost the race in the ward they represent.

Here's a breakdown of the numbers:

In Ward 2, Paul Cunningham tallied 45,296 votes in the citywide election and 10,179 of those votes came from his ward.

His opponent, Kelly Lawton, received 33.231 votes in the city, but 11,137 votes in Ward 2, which would have made him the winner if the city chose council members in ward-only elections.

In Ward 4, it was a similar outcome.

Incumbent Shirley Scott won the city election with 43,824 votes over Vail school board member and math teacher Margaret Burkholder, who got 34,611.

The numbers in the ward are much different with Scott getting 6,533 votes to Burkholder's 9,143.

Margaret Burkholder said she was not surprised, but pleased to see the numbers.

"I think I took the loss a lot harder than I thought I would. When you see that yes my ward appreciates my efforts, but the city as a whole? I just couldn't match the numbers," Burkholder said.

Lawton said this proved that it was time for Tucson to change the city charter.

"The charter was written in 1929. The city has progressed, we have grown, our bureaucracy has gotten bigger, our population has increased. As such, the representation needs to change as well."

This reaction comes after a ruling just came down from the Ninth Circuit court that mayor and council must act following a court decision on city elections.

A federal court has ruled Tucson's way of holding elections is unconstitutional.

Tucson's primary elections are ward-only.

Only people who live in a specific ward may vote for that ward's councilperson. However, the general election is citywide.

Republicans have sued over the system because a Republican candidate could get the most votes in the ward-only primary, only to lose in the citywide election.

The mayor and council could vote to appeal the court's decision.

Ultimately, any change in the way the city conducts elections would mean a change to the city charter.

That means voters would have to decide what the change would be.

The court is saying the primary and the general election can be ward-only or citywide, but cannot be both.

Bruce Ash, the national committeeman for the Republican Party of Arizona, and a plaintiff in this lawsuit said he was pleased with the judge's ruling and hoped city council decides not to appeal, but to let voters have a say.

"For a long time now, I have felt there was a tyranny in the majority that has perpetuated in Tucson," Ash said.

Councilman Paul Cunningham stressed that he felt the outcome of the election might not have changed, even if this had been a ward-only election.

"Obviously if it's a ward-only election we would change our strategy in the race. In this past race we focused on voter outreach citywide," Cunningham said.

The issue now goes before mayor and council.

City officials said they will decide whether to appeal the judge's decision or not in their executive session next week.

Read the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision on Tucson elections HERE:

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